Sunday, December 30, 2007

Clutter free, maybe

One of my standard new year's resolutions is to rid the house of clutter. I make progress every so often, then the clutter creeps back. This year, I am trying a quantifiable goal: Spend two hours a week decluttering. It's not lot of time, but, if I am consistent, I might make some headway, especially if I can get a family member to help.

I am thinking about clutter today because there was a story in the paper today amid the "Highlights of the Year 2007" about a woman who was involved in an auto accident in February because her car was so full of clutter that junk rolled under the gas pedal and she couldn't control the car. Then the authorities then went to her home and found it so full of stuff and junk that the only way in and out of the house was through a window! Yikes. Stories like that make me throw everything out right now! Well, except for all the music and art stuff...and some of the books....

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Handel's Messiah Sing/Play In

I have not yet gotten up the courage to play at our local Messiah Sing In/Play In, but I did attend this year, in part because I really want to play next year. It is a lot of music, and, as a cellist friend of mine who did play said, "It's relentless. You just keep playing." Nevertheless, she and others enjoyed it immensely. Another cellists friend showed me where to get free sheet music online:

and the cellist who played loaned me her own copy of the music so I would know which sections are played. The cellists use the Carl Fischer version.

Many towns and cities have Messiah Sing-ins with accompaniment by professional (or good amateur) orchestras or quartets. I think it is unusual for the orchestra to be "drop-in" too. Any string player who wants to play can play. This year there were three cellists, three violinists, and a violist, as well as a baroque trumpet player. There is a only one short rehearsal an hour or so before the public performance.

I wrote an article for the paper, and the people I interviewed encouraged me to play next year. So I will. I have a whole year to work on this--and some friends who want to try it too. In the past, the orchestra consisted of as many as 20 musicians. I hope we can approach that number next year. The bigger the better, as far as me and my cello are concerned!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

This is one of my favorite Christmas presents this year, a drawing done for me in a "Secret Santa" exchange at We each made a list of things we wanted for Christmas, and our Secret Santa chose one to draw for us.

I have always loved toucans. We had a painting of a toucan on the wall when I was growing up, and I have enjoyed drawing them myself. This one is very cheerful, and I like the flowers, leaves and greenery background.

The picture I drew was of a $21,200 electric guitar I found online (the most expensive guitar I could find). My recipient wanted an electric guitar and did in fact receive one for Christmas, so she liked the drawing. I am not so pleased with it myself--the many lines that should be straight are not, and I could not think of a suitable background, so left it blank. But I 'm posting it here anyway. The guitar has a lot of mother-of-pearl, which I tried to duplicate using metallic colored pencils, but I do not have the technique down yet. Onward and upward! We had a great Christmas with my daughter, son, and his girlfriend, playing games, eating, and talking. Hope your holidays are wonderful!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Winter Solstice wishes

According to the local library, it is a New England custom to observe Winter Solstice, which occurs at 1:08 AM on December 22, by making a solstice wish. Here's what to do:

Take a five-inch square of parchment paper and write on it in red ink the word that best represents the trait you wish to have born in yourself when the sun is reborn. Take three holly leaves and place them in the center of the paper. Fold the paper closed with the holly inside. Then light a red candle and light the paper from its flame. Voila, your wish will come true.

I don't have any real parchment paper, just some stationery described as parchment. I don't have a red candle either. (How could I be without a red candle at Christmastime, you might wonder. I both love and fear candles, and my fear that someone will burn the house down usually wins out over the romance of candles.)

I do have a pink birthday candle, and I have some holly, but I don't have my word yet, the one that I have to write in red ink on the paper, to best represent the trait I wish to have born in myself.

I am thinking maybe "productivity" or "efficiency." While I get involved in lots of activities, I don't always do them as well as I should. This specifically applies to practicing and generally to cleaning the house.

Maybe "energy" or "discipline" applies better to cleaning the house and doing all that other stuff that is not so much fun as playing the cello (and to practicing), but it also applies to nurturing creativity.

More "talent" would be helpful, although I think this relates to "discipline" and "efficiency."

This is sounding a bit like a New Year's resolution, but I think the idea of the solstice wish is that you don't have to expend the effort to stick to a resolution; you just automatically become a better person when the new day dawns. Sounds good to me. I just have to think of the right word in the next couple of hours. Hope the pink candle works--and doesn't burn the house down.

Happy Solstice to you, however you may or may not celebrate it.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Movies, and Concerts, and Plays, Oh, My!

I went a little crazy this past weekend and saw two movies, a concert, and a play. I used to have no time to attend such entertainment events, but now my job almost requires it. I am having so much fun. I reviewed the play (a variation of "A Christmas Carol") and will write a short review of the concert. I may wait to see another movie before writing a shortish article on Christmas movies for kids. Tomorrow, I am interviewing a choral director.

All of which, plus Christmas (which I have been thus far mostly ignoring, except musically) have left me little time to blog. One little update: I took the transposed version of "Gesu Bambino" to my cello teacher today, and she gave me magical new fingerings. I'm feeling pretty good about it now, provided I allow enough time to practice between now and the performance on Sunday.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Please pass the honey

It's interesting how little things you do or say can have a lasting impact on others.

Several years ago, I was coordinating a concert with a friend of mine. We used to sing in a women's chorus together, and she also directed a chorus at the nursing home where my flute choir rehearses. Her chorus members are members of the Alzheimer's Unit at the nursing home, so her job was challenging, yet rewarding. We decided to do a joint concert for the other nursing home residents: some songs with just the chorus, some pieces with just the flute choir, and some with all of us together. We chose "Sound of Music" for the joint pieces because we have an arrangement for flute choir and vocal choir.

My husband helped us set up for the concert, or brought me something I forgot (a music stand, perhaps?), and then had to leave. I called out to him, "Thanks, Honey!" as he left.

Skip ahead a few years to yesterday when my friend and I ran into each other again at a cello concert given by a husband-and-wife cello duo (their two children are talented cellists too). My friend happily introduced me to her new male friend, and she told me that, when I called out to my husband that day, her thought was "I want a 'honey' too."

So she set out to find one, and after a couple of years, found a very kind and loving man, her "honey." They are both well into their retirement years, but young at heart and enjoying the cello concert--and life--together. It is heart-warming to have unwittingly nudged her in this direction. :-)

Oh, the cello concert was great, too. Beautiful cello duets, set in an historic mansion (now arts center), festively decorated for Christmas, with views of gently falling snow through the large windows. That gently falling snow quickly became quite a mess, but it sure was lovely at the time!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Grumble, grumble

I went to rehearse my Christmas cello pieces with the organist and vocalist yesterday. The vocalist, who used to play the violin, wanted me to lower the pitch of the cello one whole step because there is a note in Gesu Bambino that is too high for him to sing. Either that or transpose the piece from the lovely key of G to the key of F. Not so bad, except the middle section is now in four flats, just like "O Little Town of Bethlehem." I am going to have to transpose the piece now, and I was reading it so well in treble clef!

I did try, briefly, to lower the pitch of the strings, but quickly decided against it. I have two pieces to play and no way to leave the front of the church to tune in between pieces. I do have two cellos, but my new one sounds so much better than my old one that I am reluctant to use the old one for such an "exposed" performance, when I need all the help I can get.

The vocalist/ex-violinist tried to convince me it would be easy to change the tuning, but I think this must be an entirely different matter for a violin vs. a cello and think it would loosen the strings too much. I am curious though whether anyone else has tried changing the pitch of the strings to accommodate a singer or for some other reason.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Me, the Arts and Entertainment Editor

I started a new job today: Arts and Entertainment Editor of the local newspaper. I'll be editing press releases as well as writing articles and reviews of concerts, plays, movies, and other events for the newspaper and, eventually preparing online content. It's the perfect job for me. I have been writing classical and folk music reviews for the newspaper for the last couple of years and am familiar with the local music groups and arts organizations, either directly or through my kids or my friends, so I know the territory. The staff is friendly and easy to work with. And I love editing other people's writing. :-)

I've been self-employed, working at home, as a book and web site indexer for the past 17 years, and have been a little reluctant to get a real job in a real office because of the flexibility of being on one's own. Yet, on the other hand, I work until the wee hours of the morning far more often than I would like, trying to deal with multiple conflicting publishing deadlines. So, when this A&E editor job became available, I decided it was just the job for me. Daytime office hours! The arts! What more could you ask for?! (For what more could one ask?)

Sunday, December 9, 2007

More Happy Holiday Cards

I made some more holiday trading cards for the exchange. They are just slightly larger than they appear here. It's been fun doing them, and I kind of hate to send them away, except of course, I will be getting little works of art from the other participants and I get to share them with you here. Happy Holidays!

(There should be one sharp in the violin music. Three points if you can name that tune.)

Friday, December 7, 2007


I took a week off from work this week, and found myself swamped with the details of everyday life, and barely got anything done, including practicing. I did attend four rehearsals, and, in each one, thought to myself, I really should practice/should have practiced this more. The performances are the 20th, 22nd, and 23rd, so I have another 2 weeks or so. Hopefully, that will be enough time to work out some of those tricky spots!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Rice and Vocabulary Improvement

I found this link on Paulette's blog. I can't verify the authenticity of the rice donations, but it's a challenging vocabulary test, which adjusts itself to your vocabulary level. Maybe you will find some words to use in your blog. :-)

Monday, December 3, 2007

Christmas Carols

I love Christmas music, and, over the weekend, I discovered that Christmas carols sans sheet music can be a great learning tool for those who want to improve their ability to play by ear. I'm usually working on memorizing fiddle tunes, but playing fiddle tunes by ear is different. When you are playing by ear, you know where the next note is and your fingers know how to play that note. When you are memorizing a tune, I am more apt to think of a series of fingerings and patterns than the actual melody. The two processes are related, but playing by ear has some advantages over relying on memory.

The Fiddlers played at one of the downtown historic homes yesterday, after the annual Christmas Parade. To prepare for that, we rehearsed some Christmas carols by playing them by ear. (We don't use sheet music in our performances and we didn't have any Christmas music on hand.) It was surprising easy. We picked easy keys, of course: G or D, an occasional A. No four flats for us! It was great fun, and you could concentrate on playing the notes, rather than on remembering the tune.

I heard that Sunday's fiddle performance was very well-received by an enthusiastic and dancing audience. I was not able to go, as my daughter had a Christmas choral concert the same afternoon (which was also wonderful), but I think I will add "playing Christmas carols by ear" to my practice schedule this month.